Why is a bar code important for my food business?

The bar code is a standardized device to identify the manufacturer of and type of product in commerce, including the food system.

Bar codes are such a part of our daily lives that some of us have never known a shopping experience without them. In 2011 the State of Michigan repealed the item pricing law due to the predominance of effective scanning technology based upon the bar code. The code enables not only pricing, but product identification, inventory control, and a variety of other functions.

The basic bar code consists of the graphic bar, and sets of numbers which correspond with the manufacturer, the product, and variations on the product, such as flavors. GS1 is a non-profit association of 100 global organizations establishing standard identification systems including bar codes. Bar codes may be for sale through GS1, or re-sellers, or from free sources which provide randomly-generated codes.

Michigan State University Product Center High Impact Venture Action Team Project Manager, Matt Birbeck, has facilitated several successful Michigan-made initiatives with large grocery chains. “UPC or Bar Codes are really becoming a prerequisite in all retail stores especially supermarkets,” Matt says.” The UPC not only allows efficiency for the customer at the cash register but manages inventory and reordering protocols for the store. In creating a new product for retail especially when the intended product is going to be sold third party via other stores take time designing your label to include your UPC code.”

Michigan State University Extension and Product Center field- based staff in their counseling work with emerging food entrepreneurs, advise on basic product development needs in the commercial grocery industry, including product labeling and bar codes. To access food business development assistance, request counseling at www.productcenter.msu.edu, or call 517-432-8750.

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